When we now watch television, or read the papers and see the photographs, we can only have pity for the victims of our 'mad media crowds.' So many of them, armed with high-tech cameras, crowding around Rhea Chakraborrty, trying to get a snap shot – a better one than other photographers in the group are able to get, if at all that is possible.
There are journalists, so close to her that they are 'a kiss away', trying to get a response to some silly question, which will be headlines in tomorrow’s newspaper.
As a result of all this, we all know, where she lived with Sushant Singh Rajput (SSR), when and at what time she was asked by him to leave the house, what prompted the reaction, where she went from there, and everything else – that is perhaps quite unimportant to the general public – except as 'gossip.' What a waste of time!
Where are the days when one could draw the line between our private and public lives?
And I think back to the days of Jawaharlal Nehru. India’s first prime minister and the darling of the masses. A hero, if ever there was one. He was on the front pages of the newspaper nearly every day. Yet, very, very seldom was there a photo of Nehru smoking a cigarette.
I am told he smoked quite a lot – perhaps, not a chain smoker. But based on public exposure, one would have thought he was an occasional smoker, if at all. His privacy was well taken care of. It was a social norm. It was not enabled by his security agencies.
People respected his right to live in his own way – and focused only on what was relevant as a public figure.
There was Princess Margaret in London. A darling of the British public. She was being courted by a photographer, and it was news all about town. On a visit to London at that time, I was taken to a bar in London, which was frequented by Margaret and Armstrong Jones.
But I was told that if they are present at the bar – it is etiquette not to look in the direction of their table—and in fact to completely ignore their presence. Securing their privacy, with public cooperation. What a far cry from what we are witnessing in the present time.
There was King George VI, who suffered from kleptomania. Two security guards always made a note of what he picked up in his travels—and then returned the items to the shops from where they were taken. Was there any noise? None at all. No one talked about it. Corrective action was taken quietly, and life moved on. A private quirk of a public figure was not allowed to disturb the public image.
There was Franklin D Roosevelt, president of the US and a well-known figure in public life. Both he and his wife, Eleanor, were always in the limelight. In spite of such public glare, there was little talk about his private life and the fact that he also had a love of his life, hidden away from the public glare.
And no one knew that the German Chancellor had a mistress and a teenaged daughter, until they came to pay their respects at his funeral. This was, even though he was a Chancellor for so many years and featured on the front pages many days of the month!
They all drew a line between private and public life – and everyone respected this. Old world? Maybe. But a much better world than the turmoil we are presently seeing.
It was the same in the 1960s within the corporate world. When Ken Thomson was promoted to all India sales manager, from branch manager in Calcutta, he became my boss in Bombay.
Over the next few months Ken found out th,at I was active in English theatre, and he asked me whether I could introduce him, because he was an active member of the amateur theatre in Calcutta. I did. Ken fitted in very well. We would have rehearsals three evenings a week at the Petit School in central Bombay.
Ken would bring a small pint to keep himself refreshed through the evening. Often, he offered some to me. At the rehearsals, we were Ken and Walter to each other. There was camaraderie and there was bon homie—pleasant evenings spent together. However, the next morning in the office, he was Mr Thomson to me and I was Mr Vieira to him.
There was not even a reference to the goings on of the previous evening. Private life was private life – and at the corporate office it was official life – no more, no less.
Unfortunately, we cannot put the clock back – and Rhea and others will have to pay the price for being part of the society of the 2020s in India!!
(Walter Vieira is a Certified Management Consultant; and a Fellow of the Institute of Management Consultants of India (FIMC). He was a corporate executive for 14 years and pioneered marketing consulting in India in 1975. As a consultant, he has worked across the globe in four continents. He was the first Asian elected Chairman of ICMCI, the world apex body of 45 countries. He is the author of 16 books; a business columnist; visiting professor on marketing in the US, Europe and Asia. He now spends most of the time in NGO work.)